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George Platt Lynes

Portraits, Nudes & Dance

April–May 2019

Jared French, George Platt Lynes, c. 1935. Full-body studio portrait with Lynes leaning against a shoulder-height block.
George Platt Lynes, Alfonso Ossorio, n.d. Subject is seated on the right of two directors' chairs beneath backlit fabric hanging from above.
George Platt Lynes, Pavel Tchelitchew, n.d. Subject is standing before an easel, painting.
George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, ​c. 1940. Subject is laying down holding paintbrushes above his head.
George Platt Lynes, Jared French, c. 1946. Subject stands behind and beside wooden supports.
George Platt Lynes, Glenway Wescott, ​n.d. Subject stands in a suit, hands in pockets, against a lavish wall.
George Platt Lynes, Katharine Hepburn, ​c. 1946. Actress poses with flowing tulle gown and flowers in her hair, face turned to the right.
George Platt Lynes, Margaret French, c. 1940. Subject is seated on the studio floor in a clown costume.
George Platt Lynes, Christopher Isherwood, ​n.d. Subject is seated leaning to the right against a wooden studio wall.
George Platt Lynes, W.H. Auden, ​1947. Subject stands on the right of the frame leaning against a white wall.
George Platt Lynes, Henri Bendel, c. 1950. Model stands with hands on hips, head turned to the left, beneath a clothes line with two drawings suspended from it.
George Platt Lynes, Henri Bendel, c. 1950. Model stands, hands on hips, looking to camera, in front of three clotheslines with three drawings suspended from them.
George Platt Lynes, Birth of Dionysus, ​c. 1945. Reclining nude male torso with an infant superimposed on the left thigh.
George Platt Lynes, Cyclops (Fred Danieli), 1937–1939. Reclining male nude with an eye superimposed over the chest.
George Platt Lynes, Pygmaleon & Galatea, c. 1937. Male nude figure kneeling before a standing female nude. The male is posed with tools as if sculpting the female from marble.
George Platt Lynes, Caenus, ​c. 1937–1939. Nude male in makeup among tree branches, one arm reaching upward.
George Platt Lynes, Tanaquil LeClercq & Todd Bolender, Metamorphoses, ​1952. Female dancer poses with one leg and both arms lifted, while male dancer kneels supporting her grounded leg from behind.
George Platt Lynes, Bridget Chisholm, ​c. 1945. Model in a hat pictured from shoulders up looking into the camera. A silhouetted figure in profile to the left in the background.
George Platt Lynes, Ruth Ford with Hummingbird, c. 1939. Composite photo with subject's head and face covered in netting with a hummingbird on top.
George Platt Lynes, Swimsuit Advertising, ​c. 1950. One female and three male models pose in swimsuits in a studio with a seascape backdrop. The artist's handwritten notes surround the print.
George Platt Lynes, Tanaquil LeClercq, Western Symphony, c. 1956. Dancer in black on pointe shoes kicks outward to the right.
George Platt Lynes, Errante, ​1935. Two female dancers lean back from a central male figure, their hands on his shoulders and head.
George Platt Lynes, Apollo & the Muses, Lew Christensen & William Dollar, Balanchine's Orpheus & Eurydice, ​1936. Male figure holding a harp leans against a kneeling angel figure supporting him by the shoulders.
George Platt Lynes, Show Piece, The Ballet Caravan, ​1937. Three male figures pose seated on blocks facing left, forward, and right.
George Platt Lynes, Illumination, Nicholas Magallanes & Brooks Jackson, ​c. 1950. Seven dancers pose in clown costumes. All looking to the central shirtless male figure.
George Platt Lynes, Les Illuminations, ​1950. Seven dancers, two seated in front and five standing behind, pose in clown costumes.
George Platt Lynes, Age of Anxiety: Todd Bolender, Roy Tobias, Jerome Robbins, Tanaquil LeClercq, ​1950. Four dancers pose, two in front and two behind, with arms and legs in various directions.
George Platt Lynes, Jeremy Jackson, ​1935. Male nude figure stands with arms and one leg raised against a spot-lit wall.
George Platt Lynes, Ted Starkowski, ​c. 1950. Male nude photographed from behind and below.
George Platt Lynes, José Martinez, ​c. 1937. Male nude in a straw hat, seated in a window-like opening.
George Platt Lynes, Untitled, ​n.d. Reclining male nude in a white bed.
George Platt Lynes, Bill Harris, ​c. 1942. Male nude with arms crossed looking upward.
George Platt Lynes, Charles "Tex" Smutney & Charles "Buddy" Stanley, ​1941. Nude male acrobats. One figure is crouch while the other does a backbend with feet supported by the other's back.
George Platt Lynes, Charles "Tex" Smutney & Charles "Buddy" Stanley, 1941. Two nude male figures. One is seated, the other is laying with his head in the other's lap.

Press Release

Keith de Lellis Gallery showcases the portrait photography of noted fashion photographer and influential artist George Platt Lynes (American, 1907–1955) in its spring exhibition. Though largely concealed during his lifetime (or published under pseudonyms), Lynes’ male nude photographs are perhaps his most notable works today and inspired later artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts.

 

Primarily self-taught, Lynes was influenced by Man Ray when he visited Paris in 1925, where he also met Monroe Wheeler, Glenway Wescott, and John Cocteau. Publisher Jack Woody wrote, “surrealism, neo-romanticism, and other European visual movements remained with him” when he returned to New York (Ballet: George Platt Lynes, Twelvetree Press, 1985). Lynes first exhibited with surrealist gallerist Julian Levy in 1932, and was featured at many galleries and museums in his lifetime, including three group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art.

 

He opened his New York studio in 1933, finding great success in commercial portraiture for fashion magazines (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, etc.) and local elites. The artist relocated to Los Angeles in 1946 to lead Vogue’s west coast studio for two years, photographing celebrities such as Katharine Hepburn and Gloria Swanson, before returning to New York to focus on personal work, disavowing commercial photography. While his commercial work allowed him to support himself and brought him great recognition as a photographer, it did not fulfill him creatively, leading the artist to destroy many of those negatives and prints towards the end of his life.

 

In New York, the artist counted Wheeler, Westcott, and New York City Ballet founder Lincoln Kirstein as members of his inner circle, gaining him introductions to many of his models for his figure studies. The artist was introduced to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, human sexuality researcher, during the late 1940s. Much of his nude and homoerotic work was purchased by Kinsey or left to the Kinsey Institute after his death in 1955.

Lynes’ favorite explorations focused on the human figure in the form of male nudes and the principal dancers of the New York City Ballet. Choreographer George Balanchine spoke highly of Lynes’ work: “His photographs have several lives of their own: as a record, as portraiture, as social-history of the taste of an epoch, and as beauty” (Ballet: George Platt Lynes).

 

Various models of his have reflected on the artist’s charm and persuasiveness in achieving his desired composition, coaxing increasingly revealing and daring tableaus out of his sitters, which included friends, lovers, neighbors, and assistants. Bruno Gmünder commented that Lynes’ made “pictures which are almost like sculptures,” turning his models into idealized objects of desire (George Platt Lynes, Bruno Gmünder, 1990). One series explored Greek mythology through dramatic nudes: high-contrast, Surrealist-inspired portraits such as “Birth of Dionysus,” in which Lynes combined two negatives into one image of the demigod being born from his father Zeus’ thigh.

 

Photographs by George Platt Lynes are featured in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and more.

 

Lynes’ pioneering photographs display his expert and artful control of lighting, perspective, gesture, and composition, on view in George Platt Lynes at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through May 23, 2019.